Full Court Press, Bristol
Experience working with big chains enabled Mat North to turn Full Court Press into one of Bristol’s best-loved independents.
You got your start as a barista at Caffè Nero. What did you learn from that experience?
‘Working for any of the big chains is a real education; it gave me an excellent grounding in efficiencies and good financial practices. Chains have systems for literally everything – they are at the point where they can measure and quantify all of the basics, like greetings, wait times, wastage etc, so they can focus on other things. They know just how easy it is to lose a customer, so these systems allow the staff to focus on service to avoid this happening.’
Bristol is renowned for its food and drink culture. How has the local scene changed since you started Full Court Press?
‘When we opened six years ago we were only the third of the new wave of shops to open in Bristol. The speciality scene only really arrived in Bristol in late 2012, so what’s been amazing is the rate of change, both in quality and offering. We’ve seen explosions of quality independent bakers, breweries, distilleries, cocktail bars and, of course, coffee shops. It’s a very exciting time to be involved.’
How do you make an impression in such a competitive market?
‘If you don’t have a USP, then branding and look really comes to the fore, though this can be a problem as it leads to homogeneity of both look and offer – something perpetuated by Pinterest, Instagram etc. In this situation it’s all about location and service. What we’ve done at FCP is aim for the very top of the quality sector of the market. Our offer is more akin to a wine bar than it is to a traditional café, with new coffees to try each week and a very limited food offering.’
What have independent cafés brought to coffee culture in the UK?
‘Variety. Ostensibly we all serve the same product, but it’s easy to see that there are a myriad ways to present it. Thankfully, there are enough customers that fall on either side of the fence to keep both independents and chains in business.’